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Photo: Michael Reaves via Getty Images

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) on Friday issued an executive order that bars local school districts from requiring students to wear masks when they return to the classroom next month.

Why it matters: The spread of the Delta variant has led to a spike in new infections across the United States, triggering another round of debate about COVID guidelines in schools.

  • DeSantis' announcement comes after the Broward County school board passed a mask mandate Wednesday due to new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which recommends universal indoor masking for all teachers, staff, students and visitors to K-12 schools this upcoming school year, regardless of vaccination status.

Details: The order directs the Florida Department of Education and Department of Health to issue emergency rules protecting the rights of parents to make this decision about wearing masks for their children.

  • In his order, DeSantis said the CDC's guidance "lacks a well-grounded scientific justification." He also added that "forcing children to wear masks could inhibit breathing."

What he's saying: Wearing face masks is a parent's decision, not the government's, DeSantis told supporters at a restaurant on Friday.

  • "We think that's the most fair way to do it," he added.
  • "I have young kids. My wife and I are not going to do the masks with the kids ... I want to see my kids smiling. I want them having fun."

The Florida Education Association, which represents 150,000 public school employees, criticized DeSantis' "one-size-fits-all" policy.

  • "No matter if we live in urban South Florida, in the rural Panhandle or somewhere in-between, we all want our children to be healthy and safe,” the union said in a statement.
  • "Unfortunately, through his words and actions, Gov. DeSantis has made clear he does not respect the freedom of locally elected officials to do what they feel is best for their communities."

The big picture: School masking has reemerged as a pandemic fault line across Florida, Axios Tampa Bay's Selene San Felice writes.

Go deeper

Professors sue University of Florida after being barred from testifying in voting rights case

Campus entrance to the University of Florida in Gainesville. Photo: Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Three University of Florida professors who were barred from providing testimony in a case to overturn the state's new voting law filed a lawsuit against the university on Friday.

The big picture: Dan Smith, Michael McDonald and Sharon Austin allege in the lawsuit that their First Amendment rights were violated and are asking the court to nullify the school policy that led to a "stifling of faculty speech against the state," according to the Tampa Bay Times.

University of Florida no longer barring professors from testifying in voting rights case

Photo: Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

The University of Florida on Friday announced it is reversing its decision to bar professors from providing testimony in a case to overturn the state's new voting law.

Driving the news: UF President Kent Fuchs said he has asked the university's Conflicts of Interest Office to let three professors serve as expert witnesses, as long as they do it "on their own time without using university resources."

Mike Allen, author of AM
2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

First look: Anita Dunn advises Dems on economy message for '22

Signs from a President Biden event yesterday in Kansas City, Mo. Photo: Chase Castor/Bloomberg via Getty Images

In a midterm preview, top Democratic strategist Anita Dunn advises the party's House and Senate members to frame Republicans "as being against the economic interests of working Americans."

What she's saying: "Explicitly framing Republicans as opposing policies to lower costs does better than simply framing Republicans as the 'party of no,'" Dunn, White House senior adviser until August, writes in the memo.